What can I do After a Hard Drive Crash?

Erin J. Hill

Whether or not you can retrieve lost data and save your information after a hard drive crash will depend on how great the damage is. If there are several corrupted files but the entire system hasn’t been destroyed, you may be able to remove the files and retain your data. When the entire hard drive crashes, your only option may be to install and new one and then go back and attempt to retrieve any available data from your old one. This is generally costly and is not always possible.

Hard drive.
Hard drive.

If you have had an entire hard drive crash, you will need to buy a new hard drive for your computer and then install your operating system. You should have gotten a recovery disk when you purchased your computer or made one yourself soon after. Without this disk, you cannot install or run your operating system or retrieve any programs. If you did not make a backup disk and the computer manufacturer didn’t include one, you may have no option but to purchase the software. This can sometimes be nearly as pricey as buying an entirely new computer.

Hard drive with case removed.
Hard drive with case removed.

Once your operating system is up and running, you will need to set up your computer to run your new hard drive as the main one you will be using. The original will still remain on your computer and will become a “slave” drive, meaning you will have access to the files using your new hard drive using specialized software.

You may need to hire a professional to handle these tasks for you unless you are very technologically savvy. Sometimes your hard drive crash may not be the actual hard drive at all, but only the operating system. This will simply require a reinstall of the system without requiring the purchase of a new drive. Doing each step correctly is vital if you intend to retrieve your lost or damaged files.

In some cases during a hard drive crash, you will be able to fix the corrupted hard drive or hire someone to do so. This is not always available and can sometimes result in additional files being damaged if an underlying problem is not fixed. For this reason, purchasing a new drive is often a better option in the long-term, but if it’s not an affordable solution for you, repairing the damaged one could be an option.

If you do not have files saved to your computer that are irreplaceable, it is often less expensive to purchase an entirely new computer system. Personal computers are priced cheaper than ever before, with desktops starting at only a few hundred dollars (USD). In some cases, files from an old hard drive can still be recovered even if you are using an entirely new computer.

The computer user's ability to retrieve data will depend on the extent of damage to the hard drive.
The computer user's ability to retrieve data will depend on the extent of damage to the hard drive.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- and if it is not a boot drive that's bad, you are really in luck. You can pull the information off the drive through a recovery program, format the old drive and then write the new information to it.

After going through all, it might be a good idea to consider what you can do to backup your data. Hard drives will fail eventually. Every one of them will. For that reason, protecting important data is essential. Thanks to cloud storage, backing up data for when your hard drive invariably fails is easy.


What can you do after a hard drive crash? Throw a fit and cry.

Kidding. Your problems may not be as bad as you think, thanks to advances in hard drive recovery technology. There are some programs out there that can do sector-level scans and will find and recover files were deleted a long time ago and, in some cases, even on hard drive partitions that were erased.

If an internal hard drive has crashed that is the same one from which you boot your operating system, the quickest way to fix it is to install it on another computer, run the recovery software and save what you can. With any luck, that will return your hard drive to its former condition and you will be able to boot from it again.

To be completely safe, you might want to use that software to save an image of the problematic hard drive to another drive. Reinstall that image after you format the problem drive to make sure there are no problems with it.

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